Defendants in German attacks plot trial to confess
The suspects went on trial in April in Düsseldorf on charges of belonging to a terrorist organisation and conspiring to mount at least three devastating bombings in German cities targeted at US citizens.
Düsseldorf -- Four suspected Islamic militants on trial for plotting to kill Americans in Germany said in court Tuesday they were preparing to make confessions.
The suspects went on trial in April in Düsseldorf, western Germany on charges of belonging to a terrorist organisation and conspiring to mount at least three devastating bombings in German cities targeted at US citizens.
They had earlier asked for the court's permission to meet to confer among themselves. When they emerged, all four -- some speaking through their lawyers -- made the surprise announcement that they planned to deliver confessions.
Two of the suspects, Fritz Gelowicz and Daniel Schneider, are German converts to Islam, a third is a German citizen of Turkish origin, Attila Selek, 24, and the fourth a Turkish national, Adem Yilmaz, 30.
"I will submit a full confession and then answer questions," Gelowicz told the court.
"He will submit a confession," a lawyer for Yilmaz said.
"He will lay his cards on the table," a lawyer for Selek told the court.
And the defence for Schneider said his client would make a "comprehensive statement that largely admits his role."
Hearings in the case were suspended Tuesday until the week of June 22.
The lawyers said that between now and then, the four defendants would issue their confessions to agents of the Federal Crime Office (BKA).
The trial was expected to be one of the lengthiest and costliest on a militant plot in Germany in decades. But presiding judge Ottmar Breidling said the confessions meant "that the trial will probably be shortened now."
He added that the decision of the defendants to plead guilty could also have a "tangible effect" on their sentences. Based solely on the charges against them, all four could face 15 years in prison if convicted.
The sudden decision to confess was apparently prompted by Yilmaz, who had told relatives during a visit to his prison in the western town of Wuppertal that the evidence against him was so overwhelming that he wanted to put a quick end to the "boring" trial.
The other defendants agreed Tuesday to take a "common line", Yilmaz's lawyer said.
Prosecutors say the group, known as the Sauerland cell after the region where they were captured, aspired to carry out attacks on the same scale as those of September 11, 2001 on the United States which killed more than 3,000 people.
After months of surveillance, police using US and German intelligence said they caught three of the suspects red-handed, mixing chemicals to make the equivalent of 410 kilogrammes (900 pounds) of explosives -- 100 times the amount used in the 2005 London bombings that killed more than 50 people.
The fourth, Yilmaz, is accused of acquiring the detonators for the bombs.
The defendants are accused of plotting on behalf of the Islamic Jihadic Union in Pakistan, an extremist group linked to Al-Qaeda.
Sites on their target list included the US military airbase at Ramstein and civilian airports as well as nightclubs, bars and restaurants frequented by Americans, according to prosecutors.